news hardware Scientists create the first printer that saves lives
As more and more people around the world await organ transplants, research on 3D printing of living tissue continues to advance. A hope for many patients. Today, science is advancing in leaps and bounds towards a 3D printer capable of saving lives.
Every year in France, thousands of people benefit from an organ transplant: heart, lungs, cornea, the possibilities are endless. In 2021, 5,273 transplants were performed in France, on patients on the waiting list.Organ transplantation saves lives, but it is conditioned by many limitations. The first, and no less important, is none other than organ availability. The “donations” are, in the vast majority of cases, from people who are deceased and compatible with the patient waiting for a transplant. There are, of course, cases of transplants performed by living donors, but the issue of compatibility remains essential.
3D printers at the service of organ transplantation
In the United States, where the waiting list for an organ transplant exceeds 100,000 patients, 17 people die every day before being able to benefit from a transplant. A situation that pushes many teams of researchers to work hard to find an alternative to traditional transplantation. Among the routes mentioned, is that of bioprinting.
Researchers at the Harvard Wyss Institute are actively working on a bioprinting method capable of producing living tissue through a 3D printing process. This would make it possible to create thick tissue containing human cells, eventually allowing viable organs to be printed for transplants.
Scientists are currently working to extend the lifespan of these tissues., who currently “lives” for about six weeks. They are on their way to solving one of the most critical problems in bioprinting, namely the vascularization of printed fabrics.
The video posted by the Wyss Institute is quite fascinating to watch: anyone who has seen a standard 3d printer work can easily find a familiar diagram there. This is not about plastic, but about layers composed of living cells that, once stacked, constitute a thick vascularized tissue.
“The method uses a customizable printed silicone mold to house and seal the printed fabric on a chip. Within this mold, a grid of larger vascular channels containing live endothelial cells is printed in silicone ink. A separate ink, containing living mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), is overlaid via a separate print job. After printing, a liquid composed of fibroblasts and extracellular matrix is used to fill the open regions within the construct.the researchers explain.
When printing is complete, the tissue is immediately impregnated with nutrients that ensure its survival, but also its development. This phase is very delicate and this is what is currently at the heart of current research.
What is the use of 3D printing of living tissue?
Scientists initially hope achieve the creation of vascularized tissues viable enough to be used in regenerative medicine, for example to treat severe burns. In such a situation, the printed tissue would contain cells from the body of the person for whom the transplant is intendedwhich would greatly limit the risk of rejection.
As for the 3D printing of viable organs, the road will still be very long. When the technology is viable enough to be tested, it will take years of clinical trials to test the efficacy of printed fabrics. The day when we will see a heart ready to be transplanted from a 3D printer has not yet arrived, but researchers are working on the topic to make this science fiction vision a reality.
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